Around the world we are seeing neighbors and communities come together to help one another in a fight against the tragic COVID-19 pandemic. It is often said that adversity brings out the best in us. And as a nation, we have clearly not forgotten another health crisis that has grown for decades. On April 2, porch lights and national landmarks still lit up blue in recognition of Autism Awareness Day.
Autism Awareness Month began in 1970 with The Autism Society of America, the nation’s oldest leading grassroots autism organization. In 2007, The United Nations designated April 2 of every year as World Autism Awareness Day, “encouraging Member States of the United Nations to take measures to raise awareness about people with autistic spectrum disorders including autism and Asperger syndrome throughout the world.” (Wikipedia)
Since then, autism has become the fastest-growing developmental disability in the world. The statistics are staggering. When Autism Awareness Month began, nearly 50 years ago, the diagnosis rate of autism was 1 in every 2000 children. Currently, that rate is 1 in every 54. (CDC)
In the face of this startling statistic, individuals and organizations such as ShineLight dedicate themselves year-round to educating, offering services and raising awareness so that individuals with autism can live their fullest lives, being treated with respect and given equal inclusion in their communities, places of learning, and workplaces.
So, how can the challenge we face as a nation to support those with autism bring out the best in us? Some of the leading national organizations have campaigns, suggestions, and resources for how you can get involved:
The Autism Society of America
“The Autism Society of America, the nation’s oldest leading grassroots autism organization, is proud to celebrate National Autism Awareness Month in April 2020 with its new “Celebrate Differences” campaign. Designed to build a better awareness of the signs, symptoms, and realities of autism, #CelebrateDifferences focuses on providing information and resources for communities to be more aware of autism, promote acceptance, and be more inclusive in everyday life. Find out how you can get involved and #CelebrateDifferences” https://www.autismawarenessmonth.org/get-involved. (Autism Society of America)
“To kick off World Autism Month, Autism Speaks is celebrating 15 years as an organization with the Kindness Campaign, an initiative that invites people around the globe to create a kinder, more inclusive world for people with autism. To make 2020 the “Year of Kindness,” the organization is inviting supporters to achieve one million acts of kindness, big and small.” http://www.autismspeaks.org/kindness
Organization for Autism Research
“April is Autism Awareness Month! Let’s work together to increase autism awareness and acceptance in our communities. OAR is lending support in the form of information resources to promote peer acceptance, sibling support, safety, and more. Join us!” https://researchautism.org/get-involved-in-autism-awareness-month/